Gay Marriage Case Goes to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals This Week

Photo by Max Burkhalter

After months percolating in the court system, the Lone Star State's gay marriage ban is finally getting reviewed by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this week. And the crazy part is, we actually aren't fairly certain of how they're going to rule based on the selected judges.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in De Leon v. Perry -- a suit brought by a lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts and then found they couldn't have both of their names on their first child's birth certificate in Texas -- that the state's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional as it violates our rights under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Garcia promptly stayed his ruling striking down the ban until the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals could make a decision on the issue. In keeping with everyone's expectations, state officials, including Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, promptly raged against the ruling and filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit. Because that's what they always do. And now, the time has finally come.

This Friday the a panel of Fifth Circuit judges are scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case. The panel includes Judge James Graves Jr., a President Barack Obama appointee, and Judges Jerry E. Smith and Patrick Higgenbotham, both appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

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Things That Made Us Laugh at Houston in 2014

YouTube screenshot of "I Stand Sunday" video

Oh, Houston. You guys never cease to amaze us.

From Mayor Parker's ill-fated religious subpoenas to a robot-sounding robber, this city gave us bucket after bucket of delightful anecdotes in 2014.

It'll be hard to top the accidental (and often inappropriate) hilarity in 2015, but we're sure the City of Sizzurp will give it that good ol' college try. Until next year, y'all.

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Lawsuit Blames DA's Office for Failing to Supervise Investigators Accused of Stealing High-Priced Comic Books

Photo by Enokson via Flickr Creative Commons

The Harris County investigators accused of stealing some high-priced comic books earlier this year are once again on the receiving end of some unwanted attention, thanks to a new lawsuit filed in the case.

In a lawsuit filed December 18, Houston-based industrial crane company Tadano American Corp accuses the Harris County District Attorney's Office of failing to properly supervise two veteran investigators, 39-year-old Lonnie Blevins and 41-year-old Dustin Deutsch, who have been charged with stealing expensive collectibles from the company that were being held as evidence in a criminal investigation.

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Man Says He Shouldn't Be Charged in the United States for Having Sex With a Teenager in Honduras

"Soto Cano" via Wikipedia Fair Use

Apparently a grown man having sex with a 13-year-old girl -- obviously illegal under U.S. law -- should not be considered a crime here, in the United States, if said sexual activity happened overseas.

That's according to one Texas man, anyway, who's fighting federal charges of illicit sexual conduct based on just that reasoning.

In late October, federal prosecutors in Houston charged 54-year-old William McGrath, a former army contractor, with the crime of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places for an alleged sexual relationship he had with a 13-year-old girl while working at an Army base in Honduras.

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How to Celebrate the Holidays When You're Homeless

It may not be the actual Polar Express, but the construction paper train that adorns Lori Stevenson's door at the Salvation Army Family Residence is good enough. It is, after all, award-winning.

Decorated by her 15-year-old daughter, Lori's door won this year's decorating contest at the homeless shelter, a big accomplishment for the mother-daughter duo. The award is a big deal among the shelter's 75 residents, who -- without individual trees -- decorate their dorm room doors instead.

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Why Does Quanell X Support Some Rape Victims But Shame Others?

MSNBC Video Screenshot

Quanell X, community leader and head of the New Black Panthers, is probably a good ally to have on your side if you're a crime victim. After all, the man quite obviously knows how to grab headlines. His innate showmanship -- that keen ability to lure in the media -- is what helps him bring attention to cases that aren't as visible in the first place.

But Quanell's ability to draw national attention isn't always a good thing. Not when it comes to his handling of rape victims, anyway.

You see, in recent years, there have been two nationally reported rape cases in which Quanell has spoken out. In both cases, the victims were very young girls. Both girls were minorities -- one black, the other Hispanic -- and unfortunately, both rapes were very brutal.

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Suspects Arrested, Charged in #Jadapose Rape Case

Screenshot MSNBC interview with Jada

Two teenage suspects have been arrested in connection with a Houston-area rape that made national headlines after photos of the unconscious girl were posted to Twitter and mocked under the hashtag #Jadapose.

Nineteen-year-old Clinton Onyeahialam and an unnamed 16-year-old were arrested earlier this month in connection with the sexual assault of Jada, a Stafford-area girl who was photographed and bullied on social media after allegedly being drugged and raped at a house party in June.

Onyeahialam has been charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child in connection with the alleged assault, according to HPD. No information is available on the charges against the 16-year-old, who is being referred to Harris County Juvenile Probation officials.

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Three Ridiculous Pot Laws in Texas

Photo by Sids1 via flickr

So, there's more good news on the marijuana legalization front, and this time, it's coming to us straight from the Lone Star state.

This week, Texas State Representative Joe Moody introduced a bill that could potentially reduce the current state penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposed law, while certainly not blanket legalization for Texas, a la Washington or Colorado, would remove the threat of arrest or jail time, and would also keep the person from having a criminal record for possession, imposing a $100 civil fine instead.

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DA's Office Will Spend $1.9 Million to Outfit More Local Cops With Body Cams

It looks like there's finally an official plan in place for the purchase of some more body cameras for hundreds of local law enforcement officers.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced this afternoon that her office plans to dole out $1 million to the Houston Police Department and $900,000 to the Harris County Sheriff's Office for the purchase of hundreds of body cameras, which will be worn by officers while they're on duty. The money will come from assets the office has seized during criminal investigations, Anderson said.

The DA's office said that overwhelming frustration voiced at a recent town hall, along with the overwhelming community support for body cameras, led to the decision to chip in some funding for more local body cams.

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State Lawmakers are Filing Against HERO and other Non-Discrimination Ordinances

Photo by Aaron Reiss
Opponents of Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance now have some state legislation to watch.

The City of Houston hasn't had much luck with Mayor Annise Parker's attempt to enact Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance, (aka HERO) an ordinance to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents against discrimination, but now it looks like the Texas legislature is getting involved and all of the ordinances could be in jeopardy.

While things have been relatively quiet regarding Houston's law in recent weeks, opponents to such laws in the state had something new to chew on this week after Plano officials signed off on a similar anti-discrimination law in the ritzy suburban enclave that sits on the edge of Dallas.

Some of the same pastors that so ardently opposed Houston's law were immediately on hand to protest Plano's anti-discrimination measures aimed at protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents from, you know, discrimination. Then, because this is Texas, land of tolerance and hands-off government, -- as long as it has nothing to do with equal rights or abortion -- the whole argument got kicked up a notch when state lawmakers decided to get involved.

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